Wallace High School Medallion fell agonisingly short of victory as they lost 22-8 to RBAI in the Medallion Shield Final at Kingspan Stadium on Tuesday afternoon.
It was an entertaining match and up until the final ten minutes it was hard to envisage a winner.
The opening quarter saw both teams trying to gain ascendancy with much of the match taking place around the halfway line. Both defences were on top and it was not until the 18th minute when RBAI through their centre, McIlveen, scored a converted try to put RBAI into a 7-0 lead.
Wallace responded through a close range maul which was held up short and a number of forward drives before a sweeping backline move involving Marco Manso, Nathan Doak, Ben Carson, Jack Dillon and captain Conor Rankin resulted in Dillon Jones speeding over for a try. The conversion was missed.
Both sides were unable to score and the at half time the score remained 7-5 RBAI.
Wallace dominated the third quarter as their forwards gained a strong foothold in the game. The back row of Nathan Robinson, Dillon Sedge and the powerful carrying Joel Dundas were hard working and ever present in the loose and at the breakdown. At set piece Kyle Patton, Peter McRoberts, Neil Thompson, Harry Long and Jack Bailie were able to provide quality set piece possession for the backs to utilise.
The attacking threat of Wallace was apparent at this stage and they were able to move the ball wide with Conor Rankin, Jack Dillon and Dillon Jones stopped just short of the try line.
The RBAI defence held firm with some excellent last ditch tackles and Wallace were only able to score a penalty through Conor Rankin to put them into an 8-7 lead.
This proved to be a critical period of the game with fifteen minutes remaining. Wallace made a number of critical errors and RBAI gained a foothold in the game as their forward pack got their game going.
They kicked a penalty to lead 10-8 with ten minutes remaining and scored a converted try through their prop to lead 17-8 with seven minutes left on the clock.
Wallace tried to move the ball but accuracy of pass let them down and RBAI scored a final try from the last play of the game to win 22-8.
The score somewhat flattered RBAI but they were worthy winners. Wallace can only reflect on what might have been, particularly the need to score a try in the third quarter and errors which gave RBAI possession and territory.
The Medallion have made dramatic improvements individually and as a team through a high work ethic, commitment, togetherness and desire. They have shown a tremendous attention to detail in this regard. They have enjoyed an unforgettable journey and made much progress since last August and staff, parents and supporters are extremely proud of their performances.
Coach of the team, Mr Matthew Glenn, was proud of his players and commented: “Although disappointed with the final result our players can reflect on an excellent season of improvement culminating in a fantastic run to the final.
“The level of commitment and skill on our part during the game were at the highest level and the players deserve immense credit for their performance against a very good RBAI team.
“I would also like to thank our tremendous supporters who travelled to Kingspan in their hundreds and who created a brilliant atmosphere throughout the game.”
Squad: Conor Rankin (Capt.), Chris Quinn, Jack Dillon, Ben Carson, Dillon Jones, Nathan Doak, Marco Manso, Nathan Robinson, Dillon Sedge, Joel Dundas, Kyle Patton, Peter McRoberts, Neil Thompson, Harry Long, Jack Bailie, Daniel Kilpatrick, Scott Redmond, Callum Neill, Sam Hayes, Ben Allison, Reuban Crothers, Luke Montgomery, Luke Williams, Dean McCavery, Reece Pearson.
In the MCB U13 Tournament last Monday Wallace HS finished runners up to MCB. They beat RBAI in the semi final, Campbell College and Coleraine GS in the group stages before losing in the final.